State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Erin Crotty is expected to decide next week whether to delay decisions key to construction of a $353m cement manufacturing plant in upstate New York. St. Lawrence Cement has asked Crotty to hold off on rulings governing the company’s proposed plant until state officials have had a chance to review a revised plan. Dan Odescalchi, a company spokesman, said St. Lawrence made the request last week because it wants Crotty to have the most recent information about its plans.
"We just did a lot of work on this redesign and we would like any decision that comes out to reflect this redesign," Odescalchi said. He said the company has asked Crotty to delay the release of her decision for two months.
Crotty is expected to rule on is whether the company’s Greenport mine should be "grandfathered" as an existing mine or subject to today’s more stringent environmental rules. Crotty is also expected to decide whether to hold hearings on the plant’s potential impact to air quality, aesthetics, and community character.
Five years ago, St. Lawrence Cement announced plans to construct the coal-fired cement manufacturing plant on 1,782 acres, mostly in the town of Greenport and partially in the city of Hudson, to replace its existing operation in Greene County.
The project has generated a significant amount of controversy in the ensuing years, with opponents most upset about the visibility of the plant and its potential impact on the region’s air quality. St. Lawrence officials have maintained the plant will actually reduce the level of air pollution from what is now produced by the Catskill operation.
Last month, St. Lawrence officials unveiled a new design for the Greenport plant, saying it will not only reduce the plant’s highest point by 115 feet, making it virtually invisible from most points throughout the region, but will also reduce even further the amount of particulate matter emitted by the operation. Company officials acknowledged, however, that since visibility issues will be addressed by reducing the height of the plant’s stacks, there could be a increase in concentration of particulate matter near the plant.
Sam Pratt, executive director of the opposition group Friends of Hudson, questioned the reason for St. Lawrence’s request. "I think it’s pretty ironic, since St. Lawrence has been accusing opponents of delay tactics, that they’re now trying to slow things down," said Pratt. "At the end of the day, if it’s going to be a better project, why not wait the two months?" said Odescalchi. He argued that with the design improvements, the approval process could actually be quicker.